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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / Volume I: The first hundred years
(1969)

I: Western Europe on the eve of the Crusades,   pp. [2]-29 PDF (56.0 KB)


Page 9

Ch. I WESTERN EUROPE ON THE EVE OF THE CRUSADES 9 
the size of the plow teams and by this means lessening the demands on the
meadows. Perhaps the Chief problem connected with eleventh-century agriculture
is the extent to which the available arable land was increased by reclamation.
We have clear evidence that in the early twelfth century there was extensive
clearing of wood and brush land and that some inroads were made on the edges
of the great forests. There was also some draining of marshes, especially
when it could be done by a system of dikes. In the twelfth and early thirteenth
centuries colonists from all over Europe settled the lands to the east of
the Elbe in Germany. There is evidence that this great reclamation movement
started early in the eleventh century, at least to the extent of returning
to culti vation the lands that had been deserted during the Viking invasions,
but it is impossible to estimate how much was accomplished. It seems clear
that the initiative in this movement was taken by lords who wanted to utilize
as much of their lands as possible. They made attractive offers to peasants
who would reclaim land and settle it — greater personal freedom and
lower rents and services. The result was an increase in the lord's resources
both material and human. His total rents were larger and more people lived
on his lands. In short, during the eleventh and twelfth centuries the productive
capacity of western Europe and its popu lation were greatly increased by
colonization and reclamation, but it is impossible to say how far this process
had gone when the crusades began. 
 Although western Europe in the eleventh century was over whelmingly rural
and agricultural, the revival of industry, com merce, and urban life was
well under way. This development was particularly marked in Italy. There
urban life had never dis appeared to the extent that it had in the north.
Even though they might have little industry and trade, the Italian towns
had remained populated. And a number of Italian towns had main tained a flourishing
trade with Constantinople. Under the pro tection of the Byzantine fleet,
ships plied steadily between the capital of the empire and such Italian ports
as Amalfi and Venice. By the second half of the eleventh century Venice had
a powerful fleet of her own. At about this same time Genoa and Pisa began
to trade along the Mediterranean coast to Marseilles, Narbonne, and Barcelona.
These two cities also took the offensive against the Moslem fleets that had
been raiding their harbors and seizing their vessels. Naval expeditions were
made against Corsica, Sar dinia, and even Tunis. In the inland towns of Tuscany
and Lom 


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